For the Chicago Cubs, the major focus over the course of the winter will once again be on the starting rotation.
Between injury, trade, and poor performance, the starting rotation was something of a revolving door for the Cubs in 2012. It was a starting five that saw the likes of Matt Garza, Paul Maholm, Jeff Samardzija, Ryan Dempster, Travis Wood, Chris Volstad, Randy Wells, Chris Rusin, Brooks Raley, and Justin Germano pass through it at points during the year.
The second half of that list is not too pretty. Of those names, only two are locks to return next season: Samardzija and Garza. That’s assuming the latter isn’t traded. Of that list, Travis Wood also has an opportunity to grab a spot next season.
Wood was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds, with Sean Marshall serving as the centerpiece that went back to Cincinnati in the deal. He had an awful spring that led to him heading to Iowa to begin the year, but was actually pretty solid when he did get his shot in the Cubs’ rotation.
A 6-13 record isn’t going to get anyone excited, but you can’t put that entirely on Wood. His other numbers are pretty decent, as he finished with a 4.27 ERA and some solid peripherals. His walks could have been just a bit lower, and he did have a high home run rate, but it wasn’t a tremendous increase from his career numbers.
Down the stretch, Wood made his case for the 2013 rotation with some terrific pitching. He allowed more than three earned runs only twice in his final 13 starts of the season. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was also very strong over that period, walking more than three hitters only once.
Given the absence of starting pitching out on the free agent market, the odds certainly seem to be in Wood’s favor to nab a spot in the starting five for next year. The Cubs might add a starter or two, but pending some sort of meltdown during spring training next year, a spot is Wood’s to lose.